Best Cash Back Credit Cards for 2018

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Cash or points? It’s a tough decision when going in for a rewards credit card, but there’s no denying that cash back credit cards are hard to pass up, since they give back a percentage of your eligible purchases in real dollars.

Think about what you could do with the amount of cash back you receive, like invest it into a high-interest savings account, pay down debt, build an emergency fund, or use it towards another purchase.

Your options to redeem rewards are many, and so are the types of cash back credit cards on the market. You’ll find cash back rates of anywhere from 1% to 5%, based on the particular card. Depending on the card you choose the available cash back credit cards may also offer a bonus for qualifying new cardmembers, an introductory Annual Percentage Rate (APR) offer along with the various terms and conditions to consider for each card. Then, too, it would be helpful to know which cards are suggested for certain credit scores, and what your score is before applying.  Keep in mind that credit scores are just one factor that credit card issuers use to assess your eligibility for a credit card, credit card issuers use a variety of different types of credit scores and other criteria to make credit decisions.

Which card is right for you? Keep reading for our picks on the best cash back rewards credit cards and you may see one that closely matches your spending habits and that is a fit for you.

What credit score is needed for a cash back credit card?

An excellent credit score (720 and above on the FICO® Credit Score chart) may help to increase your chances for approval for the best rewards card at the lowest interest rates. Consumers with good credit scores (640-719) also have a chance at obtaining the cash back card they want, since positive credit behavior may indicate a better score to come.

This is good news for Credit Sesame members looking to open a new cash back card, since nearly half of our members have credit scores in the good to excellent range. This is a chart that shows the average credit scores, taken from a subset of Credit Sesame’s 7 million members collected October 2015.

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Best for bonuses: Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® credit card’s changing rewards calendar renews each quarter, making it a good choice for earning cash back in specific spending categories at certain times of the year. It’s an excellent card to build up cash back year-round, and use the extra money towards, for example, holiday shopping while still earning more cash back for the following year.

Chase Freedom® highlights we want to feature:

  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Eligible new cardmembers earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

The Chase Freedom® card can benefit cardmembers who tend to spend regularly in the card’s bonus categories. But those bonus categories change quarterly, so you won’t receive the highest rewards on every category all year round. Also, a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars will offset your rewards if you’re a globetrotter. There’s no annual fee for this card.

[Further Review: Chase Freedom® Review]

Best for highest cash back: Discover it® – Cashback Match™

There are a few features that, in our opinion, make the Discover it® – Cashback Match™ card the “It” piece of plastic in your wallet. The Discover it® – Cashback Match™ offers 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

We think one of the nicest perks on this card is the intro offer where Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically – for new cardmembers only. Also keep in mind to make sure your account is open, that you are in the cash back rewards program, and that you are a new cardmember to be eligible for this special intro offer.

Discover it® – Cashback Match™ highlights we want to feature:

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • You earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • There is an intro offer: Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically – for new cardmembers only

Did we mention that Discover it® – Cashback Match™ also offers cardmembers exclusive offers if you shop through Discover Deals, you can save money and earn extra Cashback Bonus. You can shop for online and in-store offers in categories such as discount stores, fashion and accessories, electronics and more. There are well known and established merchants such as Walmart online, Macy’s, Banana Republic online just to name a few. Note the merchants participating in Discover Deals can change at any time so be sure to check the Discover Deals web page for the latest merchants and deals.  The savings and cash back you can earn if you shop through Discover Deals is in addition to the regular rewards program.

The Discover it® – Cashback Match™ card has $0 annual fee, which is also a plus.

[Further Review: Discover it® – Cashback Match™ Credit Card Review]

Best store cash back card: Walmart® Credit Card

The Walmart® Credit Card is indispensable if you’re a frequent visitor to the discount retailer’s online and brick-and-mortar stores. Use the card to save on eligible purchases: Save 3% back on Walmart.com purchases (including purchases made on the Walmart app); 2% back on fuel purchases at Murphy USA (excluding Murphy Express) and Walmart® gas stations; 1% back on other purchases (including non-fuel purchases at Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations) made everywhere the Walmart Credit Card or Walmart Mastercard are accepted (including purchases made in Walmart stores, Walmart Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Clubs®) savings paid as a statement credit.

You can choose between the Walmart® store credit card or the Walmart® Mastercard® to enjoy the benefits of the 3-2-1 cash back program.

Subject to credit approval there is a limited time offer where new cardholders who open a Walmart Credit Card online can save $25 when you spend at least $25 on your first qualifying purchase made the same day the account is opened, online only, offer cannot be combined with any other offer, purchase not eligible for cash back rewards. Savings are paid as a statement credit. Account opening offer may vary by store or online.

The Walmart® Mastercard® charges a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction.

Walmart® cash back credit card highlights we want to feature:

  • Save 3% on Walmart.com purchases, 2% on Murphy USA and Walmart® gas, and 1% on purchases at Walmart and wherever the card is accepted. Savings are paid as a statement credit.
  • No rewards expiration as long as your account is open, active and in good standing

The Walmart® Credit Card may interest those who frequently shop at the discount retailer’s stores and who are looking to save on Walmart purchases.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card review

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a simple straightforward cash back program. It does not have an annual fee, pays a straight unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There are no rotating categories or sign ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how much you can earn.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a one-time cash bonus of $150 after you spend $500 on purchases with your card within 3 months from account opening. There is a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 9 months; 14.24%-24.24% variable APR after that. Balance transfers also have a 0% intro APR for 9 months; 14.24%-24.24% variable APR after that; and a 3% fee applies to each balance transferred. It’s a good simple card, but it has some stiff competition. You might earn more cash back without much more work with a few other cards on this list like the Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus® World Mastercard®.

There is no annual fee.

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card may be a good choice for people who want a cash back rewards program with no rotating categories or sign ups needed to earn cash rewards and no annual fee.

Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus® World Mastercard® review

The Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus® World Mastercard® credit card is a no annual fee card with extra rewards for bank account customers. It pays a straight 1.5% cash back rate on your eligible purchases, with no rotating categories or earning limits. Customers who make at least one purchase a month charged to this card for 6 consecutive months straight receive a 10% Purchase Bonus on earned cash back rewards in the seventh month.

A 10% Relationship Bonus on your earned cash back rewards and Purchase Bonus when you direct deposit them in a Citizens Bank personal checking, savings or money market account.  To open a Citizens Bank personal checking, savings or money market account you must have a residential address in the Citizens Bank area: MA, CT, RI, VT, NH, PA, NY, NJ, DE, MI, OH.

Altogether, you have the opportunity to earn 1.8% back with the Purchase and Relationship Bonuses.

The Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus® World Mastercard® credit card offers a 0% introductory APR for 15 billing cycles on balance transfers from date of account opening. After the introductory balance transfer, APR period is over, balance transfers are subject to a variable APR of 14.99%, 18.99% or 22.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee of either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

As for purchases made with this card your purchases are subject to a variable APR of 14.99%, 18.99% or 22.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Purchase and balance transfer APR’s will vary with the market based on LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate).

There is no annual fee.

The Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus® World Mastercard® may be best for people who want a cash back rewards program with standard cash back rate, especially existing Citizens Bank customers who may be eligible to earn additional cash back rewards through a Relationship Bonus.

Best cash back cards

If you sign up for one or more cards, consider one of these for the rewards they offer that can translate to cash in your pocket. Examine your typical spending first, and choose the card that offers the greatest reward for the purchases you are already likely to make. Here are a few other tips you may find helpful when considering a card. If the card has an annual fee consider if it makes sense to own the card, meaning do the features and perks of the card even out or outweigh the cost of the annual fee. If you tend to carry a balance pay attention to the Annual Percentage Rates (APR’s).

Once you decide on a card be sure to manage your account responsibly such as making sure to make all your payments are received on-time. Stay within your means, don’t use the card as a reason to spend more just to earn rewards. Use your cash back refund wisely, invest it into a high-interest deposit account, pay off debt or use it towards future purchases that, with card in hand, earn you more cash back with smart use.


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Published July 7, 2016
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